Report Sees COVID-19 as Digital Game Changer

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A recent research report by Ericsson has described the COVID-19 pandemic as a digital tipping point that would define the future of work, where majority of the global workforce would work from home or remote locations outside of the office space.

The Ericsson IndustryLab report, tagged ‘The Dematerialised Office’, explores the white-collar employee perspective on a potential future reality where digital technology by 2030 could interact with people’s senses of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch.

Analysing the report, the Country Manager for Ericsson Nigeria, Mr. Sean Cryan, said over 8,400 white-collar workers who were early adopters of Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) or virtual assistants from 16 countries, representing around 133 million people, were surveyed about their expectations of the future workspace.

According to the report, the respondents anticipated a digital workstation that would transform with each task; A virtual cake from a colleague that you can even taste; Interactive digital meetings with people rather than being passively stuck behind a screen all day; and Future business that takes place digitally, where people can visit virtual stores and warehouses.

This year’s pandemic has changed the mindset of many companies and their employees. In our report we present a vision of the internet of senses in the 2030 workplace and explore the challenges and opportunities that this could present, the report said.

It further explained that the priorities and needs of employees have shifted since the global outbreak of COVID-19, leading to a higher interest in engaging with all senses online.

The report stated that respondents were of the view that by 2030, a wearable would be available that lets people feel oncoming weather; AR glasses would be available that would let people see through walls or buildings.

The respondents were also expecting a headband that transmits sound directly to human brain; the ability to convey smell to others; the ability to convey hot or cold sensations to others; the ability to reply to messages by thinking instead of typing; and the ability to convey taste to others.

“Not only is the interest significantly higher for the already mentioned full-sense digital workstation and digital shopping mall, but as many as 54 per cent want the ability to turn their office or cubicle into a virtual palace complete with full sensory effects, compared to the 44 per cent in our 2019 study who were interested in a similar makeover of their personal space. In addition, there is a jump of 16 to 24 percentage points in the belief that a long range of sensory interaction services will be available by 2030,” it further stated.

Analysing further, employees’ demand on internet of senses for work, the Ericsson IndustryLab report added: “Imagine a fully immersive office experience, where all sensory experiences are digitally interactive. By 2030, the dematerialized office may be a reality. And for those working from home, the full-sense digital home office will also get a boost. In fact, half of respondents want a digital workstation allowing full-sense presence at work from anywhere.

“Today, companies direct their funds into maintaining physical office space, but in the future, respondents hope this will be geared towards improving their home office environment.”

It further said after months of working on their computers at home, constantly engaged in video meetings in their sometimes chaotic home environments, nearly six in 10 respondents foresee a permanent increase in online meetings.

“They are also realising that while connectivity is more important than ever before, digital meetings need to evolve before they become as effective as the real thing.

Dematerialisation of the office will be driven by efficiency gains and sales, but the environment is also expected to benefit. With virtual offices for example, there would be no need to commute, or for companies to keep physical office spaces running. As many as 77 per cent respondents indicate that an internet of senses for business use would make companies more sustainable.